Merry Christmas! That creates some pressure, does it not? I mean we say “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” and “Joy to the World” but the reality is life isn’t always merry, happy and joyful. Do not get me wrong, I’m not a pessimist and I don’t mean to bring anyone down. As I minister to and with patients over these last four years as a chaplain in four different hospital settings, I see it all the time. The push to be positive, happy and joyful when deep down there isn’t anything but pain, misery and difficulty. We all worry about our health, our lives, our children, grandchildren and families.
You may be dealing with family and financial problems this year. Maybe you have lost a loved one who will not be gathering with you this year. Perhaps you have received a difficult medical diagnosis or know someone who has lost a job. There are pressures. Life is hard. And much of it is out of our control. And then we come steamrolling into Christmas and try and be “merry” and bright and it’s not there. The culture wants us to feel that way. The commercials and the retail stores are all built around happiness to be discovered in the latest purchase.
What I share with patients when I meet with them is that we have a “God with us” in the midst of the mess of life. Immanuel, a name given to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (1:23) means exactly that: God with us. Not a God, in my opinion, that “sends” stuff to us or is at some giant computer sending health issues here, and family problems there. We have a God with us in the midst of our lives, no matter what we have done, are doing or will do. It’s a free gift we can open any day, but especially at Christmas. Lower the bar of expectation for a grand Holiday experience. Love of God and the love we have for whomever we gather with is all we need. The rest is tinsel!
Things will get better. If you are not feeling merry, happy or joyful it’s okay. Things will get better….nothing lasts forever; this too shall pass. After every dark night, light comes afresh in the morning. After every winter there is a spring, a thawing. After every storm, a calm.
Because on a cold, dark night in a manger where animals were kept, a baby was born. The stink of a manger, the mess, the cold, the straw, the loneliness Joseph and Mary must have felt. It was not a merry, happy or joyful birth, I’m sure. No epidural, no nurse, no real help. Baby Jesus is born…..and they look up. When we don’t feel merry, happy or joyful we can always look up. And see, off in the distance, the star of wonder, star of light, burning bright. And Hope is born anew.
God bless you and yours for this Christmas season and New Year!